Category Archives: Shanghai

Day 6: Leaving Shanghai

August 29, 2013

Today was the last full day of orientation. We had one more Chinese lesson, shared our teaching ideas with our groups, and went on a walking tour of a part of Shanghai. Apparently, there is the oldest street in Shanghai where we went but now it has been taken over by shops and a colossal Starbucks. My feet and knees are quickly deteriorating from all the walking and standing and despite being caught in a tsunami and standing under an awning for a good half hour, we enjoyed wandering through the small streets and popping in and out of the shops. I asked how much something is in Chinese by myself and Duncan haggled a bit and I ended up buying some stamps to use on my students instead of going out and buying stickers. Our group also found these great shirts!

Oba Mao

To finish off our stay in Shanghai, I figured I’d share with you some interesting facts about Shanghai:

–       There are <19 million people living here

–       Has the lowest fertility rate in China

–       Is the 8th largest city in the world

–       Is the world’s busiest seaport

–       Is sinking at 1.5cm/year

–       Has the largest subway system (which I rode today!) and the largest bus system in the world

–       Is known for having sweet food

–       (and) is considered a paradise for world adventurers

Downtown Shanghai

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Xie xie!


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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Shanghai, Uncategorized


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Day 5: Zhou Zhuang

Hey everyone!

Today we went to the Venice of the East, Zhou Zhuang. It’s a place Duncan and I had on our places to travel to while in China list and we got to do this trip for free with CIEE! It was very nice and the first “authentic” Chinese I’ve had.

There’s really not much to tell other than we wandered around exploring, took a boat ride, ate, sweat through our clothes, and now are completely exhausted. I did, however, try pigs’ hooves for the first time – they were huge, fatty, and delicious.

The two most exciting things from our trip in Zhou Zhuang are that I ordered in Chinese an iced Americano with milk and paid for it all by myself and that I had my first squatty potty experience! Though unrelated they were both successful and exciting ventures!

While wandering through the streets of Zhou Zhuang and on the bus ride there, I had a lot of time to think about all the things I’ve heard and seen during my first days in China. First off I want to say that I think the reason the Chinese are so successful at everything they do is because they are always caffeinated from drinking tea all day long! I’m slightly joking but I always accomplish more when I’m slightly over caffeinated so it’s not a crazy presumption, right?

On a more serious note, I’ve enjoyed comparing the US to China. One of the first questions that Americans ask when we meet each other is, “Where are you from?” whereas the Chinese seem to ask, “What do you do?” Though seemingly insignificant, this simple difference in introductory questions says a lot about the values of each culture. Americans, it seems, very strongly identify themselves and other people by their geographical location.

I’ve also found it very surprising how frequently gun ownership in America has been a topic of conversation. All Meiguoren (Americans) are believed to have guns and are quick to shoot people to solve any problems. Though clearly there are differences in opinion on gun ownership and rights within America, I doubt a significant number of people actually are as immediately reliant on their guns as the Chinese believe. Furthermore, according to one Chinese radio news station, eight out of ten Americans outright want to go to war with China immediately! What an interesting perception of Americans considering we are taught to believe China wants to go to war with us! From my vantage point, both seem unlikely.

On a happier note, the ideal foreign English teacher for Chinese students is considered to be a female with blonde hair and blue eyes that has American English as a native language or is Canadian because, according to an Australian working with CIEE, “it’s like America without the foreign policy”. I guess I’ve got this job covered, at least aesthetically. 😛

Tomorrow is our last full day of orientation and in Shanghai. My new home is getting so close!

Have a good day!



Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Shanghai, Travel, Uncategorized


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Day 4: KTV, Men, and Monkeys


Today was the second day of orientation and was a much lighter schedule than yesterday. We had a few lectures and then went to the Old Shanghai Quarter for dinner. That part of Beijing is very European and very beautiful. Unfortunately I still don’t have the Internet working well enough to upload pictures so I don’t have any to share yet, but I promise they will be up as soon as possible.

Dinner was unknown and delicious like all meals and most of the evening was just spent hanging out with other CIEE participants. The best part about dinner was that I got to talk to one of the Chinese staff members, a 22 year old female, about education and dating in China. According to her, the strengths of the American education system are creativity, choice, and achievement. She is very impressed by the creativity and imagination of American teachers’ ways of presenting a concept in the classroom. She says that she would never be able to come up with it on her own. She also is impressed by the choice that is given to American students within their own education. For example, in the US students can pick one out of many options for an essay question on an exam whereas in China there is one question and one answer. She told me that she thinks that is much better than the Chinese memorization process. Finally, she was very touched and excited about how American students get to feel a sense of accomplishment with things they learn. She explained what she might by using the example of when American students take a class such as the violin or choir or art, at the end of the semester, the students get to show off what they have learned that semester. She thinks that this is a very important part of the American education system because it lets students be proud of their accomplishments rather than always feeling like they are striving to reach the next level of excellence without praise or acknowledgement of what they have already accomplished or learned.

We also got into a conversation about relationships and the one-child policy. As a 22 year old female, her parents are urging her to get married before she is too old (30) but she wants to wait a few years. She is also hopeful that the one-child policy will be lifted so that she can have 2 kids once she is married. I asked her why she wants 2 kids and she said because she never wants her kid to be lonely the way she was as an only child. The best memories from her childhood are when she got to have a sleepover with one of her friends because that meant she wasn’t lonely at night and if she has 2 kids, they will keep each other from being lonely. It’s an interesting perspective I hadn’t thought about before.

Because of the one-child policy, there are a tremendous number of men to women. This has created an interesting social phenomenon where the women, as the sole focus of multiple generations, are very highly educated and have very successful careers. This has not only put a strain on women wanting to accomplish non-familial goals conflicting with the assumption that women must be married before 30, but it has also established that only the most educated and most successful men and women get married. This leaves a huge part of the population that is less educated unmarried. Despite this, Chinese women still believe that they do not have the leeway to be very picky or have high standards.

Once we returned to the hotel, a group of us decided to go out and try and find a karaoke bar. Once we learned that many places that say “KTV” on the outside of the building could be using karaoke as a front for prostitution we decided to just go find a regular bar instead. After wandering around Shanghai for a bit, we finally found a bar and I ordered a mojito. After much anticipation and excitement, it turned out my mojito tasted like gasoline and was undrinkable. So we all wandered back to the hotel planning on turning in for the night, but we found a monkey!

A guy on a scooter had his pet monkey (aka his paycheck) with him and when he saw a group of laowai (foreigners) he came over to us and the monkey performed. I got to shake hands with a monkey! With some Pink Floyd playing in the background and people sitting on the steps of the hotel drinking beer and a Chinese man talking to us in Chinese about his life and the monkey doing flips, it was really quite a unique experience. China is great!

Have a good night,


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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Shanghai, Uncategorized


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Day 3: Orientation

August 26, 2013

For me it is actually 6:55am on Tuesday August 27th, but I am going to write about yesterday’s ventures since I passed out as soon as I got back to the hotel last night.

It was our first day of orientation! We started the day off by crossing the busy intersection in front of our hotel to go get morning drinks. Coffee is not a staple here like it is in the US so, as a coffee lover, I’m having to either grab coffee as soon as I see it despite the quality (which is a challenge in comparison to Asheville coffee), find some other source of caffeine, or go without. I’m not sure why but grapefruit juice has sounded delicious the past couple of days in the morning so when we stop at the little shop, Duncan orders yi ping keko kele (bottle of coke) and I order yi ping guozhi (bottle of juice).

We wandered back over to the hotel for our orientation breakfast. It was set up like a standard American buffet style breakfast but there were no eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, or croissants. To be honest I have no idea what I ate but it was delicious and, once again, healthier than any American breakfast I’ve have in at least the past few months.

Regarding our orientation, there really isn’t much to say about it on here other than it was 8-5 lectures from experienced teachers about how to effectively teach and three levels of crash course Mandarin. Duncan and I have both been extremely impressed by the quality of this orientation and all dealings with CIEE so if anyone is looking to do a similar thing in the future, definitely go through CIEE. The lecturers were extremely informative and helpful and very enjoyable.

At night we took a field trip of sorts to a really fancy restaurant in a different part of downtown Shanghai. Thus far, I haven’t really felt like I’m in China. I’ve been feeling more like I’m in NYC or and it just so happens that all the signs are in Chinese characters as well as English and communicating with people is a little more difficult. But when we went into this other section of Shanghai last night, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Now this is what I expected China to look like”. There was the traditional Chinese architecture, lanterns outside of the shops; the streets were smaller and quieter. Baoding will look a lot more like how I expected China to look and I think I’m going to love it!

The dinner we had was served, like most Chinese meals, on a giant lazy Susan in the middle of the table and dishes were served family style. Again, I don’t know for sure what I ate but it was pretty much all delicious.

As we ate we watched a sample performance of Sichuan Opera. Apparently in Sichuan opera there are always the same acts with the finale culminating in what I can only describe as a face changing routine. Two performers come out wearing masks hiding their faces and they dance around and move across the stage and occasionally they will change their masks. But changing their masks doesn’t involve their hands. They just shift their head slightly and the mask on their face is suddenly completely different! I cannot figure out how they did it but it was certainly very enjoyable. What I found very interesting about the performance is how the performers would do a trick or mask change and look directly at the audience and tell them to applause. I just kept thinking about how in a dance performance, even after some phenomenal move, dancers would never indicate to the audience to applause. It’s a very enjoyable interaction with the performers.

Tomorrow we’re going to be visiting Old Shanghai Quarter after the day’s lectures so stay tuned in for that.

Xie xie!

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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Shanghai, Uncategorized


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Day 2: Exploring Shanghai


Today was a really packed but fantastic day!

We woke up really early in the morning, having gone to sleep at like 8 the night before, and decided to venture out to find food. Pretty much right across the street from our hotel we found a street vendor making and selling breakfast. I’m not sure what it’s called, but we ended up getting these pancake omelet things filled with sauce, meat, sprouts, and a couple other things wrapped into a burrito and put into a plastic bag. We walked down a few more blocks and got out of the heavily trafficked section of roads and into a quiet neighborhood. We found a place to sit to eat our breakfast burritos and watched people pass as they walked their dogs or took morning strolls.

After our breakfast we got packed up and took a taxi to our orientation hotel and got checked in. The rest of the day we spent wandering around downtown Shanghai and occasionally stopping for food and drinks at small shops. For dinner we stopped in a place called RamenPlay and we shared a big bowl of ramen noodles mixed with various pieces of braised pork and a hard boiled egg. It was delicious! We stopped, for the second time, at a place called BreadTalk and got pastries decorated like pandas and enjoyed them in our room. The boy panda was filled with chocolate and the girl panda was filled with vanilla cream. I’ll upload a picture once I can.

I watched a show on TV directed at parents deciding whether or not to send their children to America for high school and was very interested in Chinese perceptions on Americans. It seems that Chinese parents, according to the show, are most concerned about Americans’ tendency to party all the time rather than doing their homework and their child’s safety considering American leniency on gun ownership laws and rights. I’m excited to talk to people and hear more Chinese perceptions on America and Americans.

I am enjoying Shanghai a lot and I’m having a very pleasant time in China thus far, but I am looking forward to moving to Baoding and getting a more “authentic” Chinese experience outside of the influences of an international mega-city. Everyone here is very friendly and I’m thoroughly enjoying saying nihao and xie xie to people as I interact with them. I added a new word to my verbal interactions yesterday – jege – meaning this one (best used when ordering food but you don’t know how to say it, just point and say jege).

That’s it for now. Orientation starts tomorrow, Monday, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that.


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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Shanghai, Uncategorized


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China: Day 1

We’ve arrived in Shanghai!

We left Raleigh this morning right before 8am, had a brief layover in Chicago until 10:30 ish when we boarded the GIANT (seats 1000 people!) airplane to Shanghai. Thankfully, we have had no problems or complications of any kind so far on our journey. The only thing I can complain about right now is how swollen my feet are and how stiff I am from being on a plane for more than a day.

Once in the Shanghai airport, we got our luggage (nothing was lost!) and an extremely helpful man at the airport got us a taxi to our hotel. Our taxi driver knew almost no English (I only heard him say ‘hello’ and ‘look’) but he was very happy and really enjoyed pointing out the bad drivers and cool looking buildings to us on our way.

At first glance, it really didn’t feel much different than DFW. The massive highway systems, the smog on the horizon, lots of buildings… there was just that added Chinese flair. But after walking around downtown Shanghai, finding some interesting “Kungfu” dinner and Chinese Starbucks, I’m reminded more of New York City, at least in this part of China. (I am impressed, though, at how Chinese Starbucks got my unsweetened iced coffee order correct despite the broken communication when American Starbucks seem to insist I have sweetened coffee…)

Tomorrow we move hotels to begin our weeklong orientation with CIEE before heading out to Baoding. Duncan and I are both excited to meet the other English teachers even though this week is likely the only time we’ll see them. We are both anxious to get to our house in Baoding so we can start feeling like we live somewhere again, rather than living out of our backpacks.

I will post pictures when the internet cooperates. So far, it looks like I’m going to have Facebook throughout the journey and, once I get WiFi, I’ll have Instagram for more pictures.

Xie, xie!



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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Shanghai, Uncategorized

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